December 17, 2018
Letting go is not easy. We yearn to cling to the familiar, the well-known, the safe. But moving forward often means letting go of the past. For me, this month is such a moment.
Fairwater, the house I grew up in on Sydney Harbor, was sold recently with the settlement being last month. It has been in my family since the early 1900s. It is a truly splendid home, with an amazing garden and an incredible view of Sydney Harbor, including the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It contains priceless artworks and furnishings. Over the years, there have been parties at Fairwater where notable people, including politicians, ambassadors and Hollywood stars, have been entertained.
But for me, Fairwater has so many memories of my parents and past generations. My father was born at Fairwater and died there. I remember on Christmas Eve we would gather around the piano in the Drawing Room, and sing Christmas carols. My father would always start to play the piano with two hands and then would inevitably go to one hand. He had learnt to play the piano many decades before and only played on Christmas Eve.
The hardest part is that Fairwater represents, in some sense, the culmination of the loss of Fairfax family memories, even identity. First there was the AUS $2.25B takeover of the family company, John Fairfax Ltd., that I launched in the late 1980s. Ostensibly the takeover was in part meant to preserve family control of the media business that had been under family control for a century and a half. The reality was that the takeover and its aftermath hastened the end of family control of John Fairfax Ltd. Then in the ensuing decades, Fairfax Media, like many newspaper companies around the world, faced some challenging times with the proliferation of digital media. This led to the recent merger of the Nine Network (similar to the NBC or CBS Networks in the US) with Fairfax Media. As part of the merger, the Fairfax name will cease to exist in the combined corporate entity, though the underlying newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald will continue.
It is the sale of Fairwater, the family home for several generations, that feels like the last straw. It’s the last body blow if you will. None of my siblings or I would want to live at Fairwater. To me, it represents a lifestyle of a bygone age, a bit like Downton Abbey. Still the sale of Fairwater has had an emotional impact on me.
What does all this have to do with Crucible Leadership and moving beyond failure? Sometimes in order to move forward, you have to let go. You have to let go of the past. For me, the past includes Fairfax Media, the Fairfax name associated with newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as Fairwater, the Fairfax family home for generations. It feels emotionally like all the memories and heritage are gone.
But that is not my life anymore. I have a wonderful family and a great life in Annapolis MD. I love the work I do as a reflective advisor and writer with Crucible Leadership. I feel called to the two non-profit boards I am on.
Yes, I am proud of my heritage, my family, and its legacy in Fairfax Media – but I have chosen to move forward and not wallow in the past or in my own mistakes and failures any longer.
To move forward beyond failure means you have to let go. Be proud of where you came from but let go of that which stops you from moving forward.
We are not defined by our past or our failures. We are defined by who we are now, where we are going, and the people we seek to serve in this world. This is where our focus should be. We must always try to keep our eyes on where we are headed and the higher purpose we seek to embrace.
What memories do you need to let go of that might be holding you back?
What is your higher purpose that needs to be your focus, rather than your failures or painful memories of the past?
Who are you now that the world needs to see?